Manchester divided: Will Rooney's demand for a move split a city?

As Ferguson admits his prize asset wants out, the club's fans fear a great sporting betrayal

The sky was a pale wintry blue over Old Trafford yesterday, which seemed apt. For the news had come out of the blue to most Manchester United fans that Wayne Rooney, Footballer of the Year last season, had announced that he wants to leave the club.

The place was in shock, but few doubted it would happen. Street traders outside the ground had already discounted scarves proclaiming "Wayne Rooney – The White Pele" to just half price. Inside the United Megastore two customers were returning shirts bearing the player's name. "I'll have a Chicharito one instead," one man said glumly.

So unexpected was the news that most United staff only heard it yesterday morning. "It has been a complete shock to lots of people inside the club," one insider said.

"The overwhelming reaction is sheer disappointment," said one of the street traders, John Speed, 40, a lifelong United fan clad in the green-and-gold scarf of the fans' protest movement that wants to force the club's owners, the Glazer family, to leave. The Glazers have burdened what was once the world's richest football club with debts of £700m.

One of the whirligig of theories spinning around the place was that Rooney wanted to leave because he was disappointed that such huge debts meant that United had not bought any top-class players to replace Cristiano Ronaldo whom they sold to Real Madrid, 18 months ago, for a record £80m.

"What most fans are wanting is some kind of explanation from Rooney," said the scarf-seller, "as to what has made him completely change his mind from saying he wanted to 'stay for life' to announcing 'I'm adamant I want to leave' over a period of weeks rather than months."

Theories abounded, about rows with the manager, chimerical injuries, demands from Rooney's wife, Coleen, after press reports that he had been using prostitutes again, and more. Many were held in the teeth of Sir Alex Ferguson's revelation that Rooney had announced he would not renew his contract as long ago as 14 August. But why let facts spoil a good theory.

There was fertile ground too for disagreement about whether Rooney has been off form. Or not trying. Or has had too much on his mind to concentrate on his game.

The big rumour was that Rooney wants to move down the Mancunian Way to Eastlands, the home of United's great rivals Manchester City. "I'd love him to come," said a gleeful City fan, Anthony Marshall, 48, who could offer no convincing explanation as to what he was doing outside the United ground, grinning broadly. "But they'd be silly to sell him to another Premiership club."

Dark clouds had moved over the stadium and the heavens opened as if in disapproval. "I don't think the truth has come out yet," said a United fan, Steve Wilson. "It's sad to see the impact that money and greed is having on the game."

The street traders put up giant umbrellas. "I've just ordered new supplies of the green-and-gold," said Mr Speed. "I think the protest movement will swell now, especially if Rooney makes it clear that he is leaving because of the club's lack of investment in new players. He doesn't have to say anything. All he has to do is pick a green-and-gold scarf from the pitch and put it round his neck like Beckham did."

Gloom was in the air. "We could get knocked out of the top four this season which would mean no Champions League football next year, which could be very costly, as it was for Liverpool," said the vendor. "We could be the next Liverpool."

The rain stopped as quickly as it started. Not one but two rainbows appeared in the sky. "I'll always back them, whatever," said a young United fan, Leonnie Turner, 17. Talk turned to whether United would buy Torres from Liverpool to replace Rooney.

The weather changes quickly in these parts.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot